Thousands more homes and businesses in Somerset are in line for access to superfast broadband following a major Connecting Devon and Somerset (CDS) expansion plan.
The Government’s Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) agency has given the go-ahead for CDS to increase access to the ultrafast broadband network being delivered by Gigaclear by more than 2,000 more homes and businesses in hard to reach areas of Somerset.
Gigaclear is building a new full fibre broadband network on behalf of CDS, for around 20,000 homes and businesses initially, in hard to reach rural communities across Somerset by December 2019.
A huge amount of preparatory has been undertaken and work is already underway to connect the first 16 Somerset communities – around 9,000 homes and businesses – to the ‘ultrafast’ network by February 2018. Today’s announcement paves the way to extend the network even further by December 2020.
CDS has already provided over a quarter of a million* homes and businesses with access to superfast broadband in some of the hardest to reach areas of Devon and Somerset.
More than 248,000 miles (400,000kms) of fibre cable have been laid, enough to circle the Earth ten times, in a programme that has taken over 2 million-man hours to date.
Councillor David Hall, Somerset County Council Cabinet Member for Resources and Economic Development, said: “CDS is making a huge positive difference to people’s lives with over a quarter of million homes and businesses now having access to superfast broadband. We want to do more for our hardest to reach communities and I’m delighted that the Government has backed our plans to expand the programme in Somerset so that we can provide superfast broadband to even more people.”
On behalf of the four Somerset district councils in the CDS partnership (Taunton Deane, Sedgemoor, West Somerset and Mendip), Councillor John Williams, Leader of Taunton Deane Borough Council, said: “I am delighted that the programme is being expanded and will see even more of our area being connected to superfast broadband. It is great that the locations and sequencing of the rollout is now is being publicised on the website.
“Digital connectivity is vital if businesses and communities in our rural economy are to thrive, and this latest announcement is recognition of that. The delivery across Somerset is already having a positive impact, bringing real benefits to rural communities and the many small businesses in them and I look forward to these opportunities being more widely available through the CDS programme.”
CDS connects rural communities and businesses where the commercial market alone will not provide the infrastructure. It does this by awarding public subsidised contracts to companies through competitive tender to build the infrastructure needed, such as fibre or wireless connections. CDS is only able to invest where suppliers have no declared and credible plans to invest their own resources to extend their networks.
It is backed with funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the EU’s European Regional Development Fund, Heart of South West Local Enterprise Partnership, local authorities and the private sector.
The proposed expansion complements an increased level of commercial investment in broadband in the county.
Joe Frost, Business Development Director at Gigaclear, said: “We’re delighted to once again expand our network in the South West and it’s fantastic to secure further funding allowing Gigaclear to bring ultrafast, full fibre broadband to even more homes and business across the county. It’s only right that more residents get the opportunity to experience the benefits of full fibre-to-the-premises broadband and this further investment helps to secure the UK’s digital economy, especially in rural locations.”
Steve Hindley CBE DL, Chair o the Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership said: “CDS is another great example of our Growth Deal with Government delivering tangible benefits throughout the whole of the Heart of the South West area – which covers Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay.
“By working in partnership with the local authorities and National Parks in these areas, we’re enabling new businesses to start up and existing ones to be more productive by providing ultrafast broadband where the commercial market wouldn’t reach. We’re pleased to welcome this latest expansion of CDS that will serve another 2,000 or more homes and businesses.”
Information about the Gigaclear roll-out timetable for CDS will be updated regularly on the web at www.gigaclear.com/connecting-devon-and-somerset-rollout-schedule Residents and businesses can also expect to receive news and information from Gigaclear and CDS by post.
CDS continues to pursue other funding options and solutions to support homes and businesses which are not able to benefit from these new networks. For example, CDS will be reinvesting public subsidy returned by BT as ‘gainshare’ or dividend from increased take-up of internet services to help fill gaps in the current planned coverage. CDS is in discussion about the final amount and will reinvest the money to extend full fibre broadband coverage to as many communities without a service as possible.
For more information about broadband in the rest of the region visit www.connectingdevonandsomerset.co.uk